Christian arrests in Iran, stepped-up persecution, raises concern
Iran authorities arrested recently dozens of Christians who were former Muslims, raising concerns about stepped-up persecution of Christians in the Islamic world.
Gov. Morteza Tamadon of Teheran said the Christians were arrested during the Christmas holidays either for converting to Christianity from Islam, and/or for trying to convert other Muslims, the UPI said.
Tamadon said, “Just like the Taliban who have inserted themselves into Islam like a parasite, (evangelicals) have crafted a movement in the name of Christianity.” The UPI reported.
The UPI said plainclothesmen raided Christian homes during the Christmas season and searched for religious items. Iran forbids Christians to possess bibles, nor can they say mass in Persian.
Stepped up attacks
This is the latest among stepped up attacks against Christians from Muslim-majority countries. Last October extremists occupied Our Lady of Salvation church in Baghdad leaving 52 dead and 67 wounded. (See http://theundergroundsite.com/index.php/2010/11/iraqi-cardinal-condemns-bloody-ruthless-attack-on-landmark-church-14305).
Stepped up attacks led to planting bombs on the grounds of nine Christian churches and most recently, lobbing bombs at some 14 Christian homes during the Christmas season, The Sydney Morning Herald said.
In Egypt 23 Coptic Christians were killed 30 minutes into the New Year and 79 were injured when a bomb was lobbed at Al-Qiddissin Church in Alexandria, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
In Nigeria, 32 were killed and 74 wounded in a series of Christmas eve bomb attacks at churches in Jos. (See http://theundergroundsite.com/index.php/2010/12/pope-condemns-church-bombings-in-nigeria-philippines-14909). In Pakistan, most recently, moderate Muslim Gov. Salman Taseer of Punjab was assassinated for opposing the blasphemy law.
The attacks on churchgoers in Iraq and Egypt were done on the pretext that two Coptic Christian women in Egypt allegedly converted to Islam, but are now ‘imprisoned’ in a Coptic monastery.
The Sydney Morning Herald said, “These seemingly absurd sparks ignited two of the higher-octane bonfires in a new wave in the persecution of minority Christians across the Islamic world in recent days.”
The Sydney Morning Herald compares such retribution to that which was generated when the head of a 50-member Florida sect planned to burn copies of the Qu’ran in front of their property.
Safer under Saddam
Iraqi Christians were safer under Saddam, Father Rony Hanna of the Iraqi Chaldean Archdiocese said. “This is what we miss most now—being protected,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald.
The Sydney Morning Herald said Christians post-Saddam make easier targets, noting that in the initial post-Saddam years violence was focused between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. It shifted to Christians amid harsh public criticism and because both sides are well armed for counterattacks.
Christians lack militias and political clout. Also, they are viewed by extremists as Western surrogates. The attacks prevail because the Iraqi government is not powerful enough to control them, The Sydney Morning Herald said.
Egyptian analysts suggest the New Year church bombing in Egypt is the work of locals who are disaffected with Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, rather than Al-Qaida, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
Discovery News, however, blamed the persecution on the fact that moderate Muslims do not speak out. When they do, as did Egypt’s Grand Mufti Dr. Ali Gomaa, (who denounced the New Year bombing), the media doesn’t cover it.
The recent assassination of Taseer for opposing the blasphemy law and supporting Christian prisoner Asia Bibi, is a signal to moderate Pakistani Muslims to put their politics on the shelf, The Sydney Morning Herald said.
Discovery News said the exploitation of the blasphemy law for personal vendetta or material gain is so accepted in Pakistan that the government dares not repeal it, nor introduce court interpretation to curb whimsical arrests.
Analyst Ahmed Rashid told The Sydney Morning Herald, “We have a very, very severe polarization in the country—we have a small minority of extremists and a small number of liberals speaking out, but the very large silent majority are people who are not extremists in any way, but are not speaking out.”
It’s all about power
Christian persecution is more often about “raw political power and social control,” The Sydney Morning Herald said, which is done either by autocratic governments, fundamentalist breakaway groups or extremists, including Al-Qaida and imitators.
Discovery News said Christian persecution is increasing even in formerly tolerant Islamic countries such as Morocco, adding, “This really is the scandal of modern Islam and demands action from within the Islamic community.” It adds that media fails to give Christian persecution due attention.
Discovery News said perhaps Western elites ignore Christian persecution because “secularism of the West is…ambivalent towards Christianity and seeks ever increased infringements on religion[.]”